MOSCOW (TheBlaze/AP) — Edward Snowden is welcome to stay in Russia for another three years.
The former NSA contractor, wanted by the U.S. for leaking details about once-secret surveillance programs, has been granted permission to stay in Russia for three more years, his lawyer said Thursday.
Russia had granted Snowden one year of temporary asylum in 2013, but that allowance ran out on Aug. 1.
His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said the 31-year-old analyst has yet to petition for political asylum, but noted he could apply for full Russian citizenship in five years, Russia’s ITAR-TASS news agency reported.
“He will be able to travel freely within the country and go abroad,” Kucherena told reporters, “He’ll be able to stay abroad for not longer than three months.”
That status, which would allow him to stay in Russia permanently, must be decided by a separate procedure, Kucherena said, without specifying if Snowden is seeking it. He faces espionage charges in the U.S. that carry a sentence of up to 30 years, but Russia has no extradition treaty with Washington.
Kucherena relayed Snowden’s contentment with Russian hospitality, saying he is “much happier than being unfairly tried in the U.S.”
Snowden was stranded in a Moscow airport last year en route from Hong Kong to Cuba, shortly after he released extensive documentation about National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. He reportedly spent a month in the airport before receiving the temporary asylum, but was seen only at one tightly restricted meeting with human rights representatives.
Since receiving the temporary asylum, his whereabouts have not been made public.
The case has been a significant contributor to the tensions between Russia and the U.S.
“I don’t think there’s ever been any question that I’d like to go home,” Snowden said in a television interview in May. “Now, whether amnesty or clemency ever becomes a possibility is not for me to say. That’s a debate for the public and the government to decide. But, if I could go anywhere in the world, that place would be home.”
Kucherena said Snowden is working in the information-technology field and that holding a job was a key consideration in extending his residency. The lawyer didn’t give details of where Snowden is working. He also said Snowden is under the protection of a private guard service.
Russian President Vladamir Putin has said Snowden is welcome to stay in his country as long as he stops “harming” the United States.
“If he wants to go somewhere and somebody will host him – no problem,” Putin said in televised remarks during a news conference in Moscow last year. “If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners.”
Putin may have since come to feel differently about the U.S. after developments with Ukraine in recent months, and after Snowden quizzed the president on live television in April about Russia’s own spying efforts. Putin denies Russia is involved in “mass, indiscriminate” surveillance but said they use modern means to fight terrorism.
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